Lipstick bullets and Beiruti thrills: Alexander McNabb's latest novel
Scandalous author Alexander McNabb is no stranger to Middle Eastern controversy, and after speaking to him about the release of his upcoming novel it seems that the "mouthy" expat has no intention of changing.
'Beirut' is a spy thriller that unfolds the mystery of why the future president of Lebanon, Michel Freij, would want to smuggle two Soviet-era warheads across the world to the country's capital. Whilst McNabb's choice of title might leave you thinking that the story is safely confined within the realms of Beirut, the plot is let loose on the international stage with stop-offs in Hamburg, Prague, Malta and Albania.
McNabb's last literary hit - or "first serious novel" - 'Olives, A Violent Romance', raised more than a few eyebrows across the region with its no-holds-barred approach to sex and politics in the Middle East. And, this time round, it seems that the feisty author has yet again upped the ante. After one publisher refused to take 'Olives' on because of the so-called lack of drama, McNabb says: "I thought, f***k you! I'll make this one dramatic then." And, if the front cover is anything to go by, they won't be disappointed.
"I'd gone through a lot of angst with the front cover…I needed an image that said what kind of book it was without using planes and explosions that would make people think of the civil war - in the book Beirut's a very alive city and I wanted to show that," he said.
In a moment of inspiration, McNabb solved his dilemma with an idea to encapsulate the sexy and explosive tone of the text - a "lipstick-bullet". Its "kind of phallic" likeness has of course not gone unnoticed by the author.
A fan of taking his plots around the world - and particularly the Middle East - McNabb has so-far managed to steer clear of his current home in the UAE. This is no accident, he tells me: "Never piss outside the front door of your own house."
Although he is mindful of not producing plots from his own doorstep, he won't relinquish his ballsy attitude to writing about the region - an area he says remains largely untouched in western literature - as a means of sparking "thought and debate" amongst readers. And, despite fears that 'Olive' would "lose [him] some Arab friends", McNabb says he has enjoyed an overwhelmingly positive response from local readers who welcome his unique perspective on the region.
McNabb puts much of his success down to the social networking phenomenon: "It's really how you get the word out…Browsing around book shops isn't really a habit for most people anymore, blogging and tweeting is." A fully-fledged blog-addict, McNabb regularly gives writing and self publishing tips to aspiring authors, and taps into the web as a means of attracting new readers.
In more ways than one, he is pushing the boundaries of writing in the Arab world - both in his plots on the page, and in the arena of self-publishing.
* Beirut is set for release on October 1st 2012